Note to the Nats: Now, You Have To Win!

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Last night a young, little known, Washington Nationals outfielder took the plate in the eighth inning with the bases loaded. And guess what happened? You got it – Michael A. Taylor  hit a GRAND SLAM home run!  It’s only the first postseason grand slam in the Nat’s short history. The Nats were already winning 1-0, and the grand slam sealed the deal.

Before Taylor’s late inning heroics, National’s Ace Stephen Strasburg shook off an illness and pitched seven dominant innings, and held the Cubs scoreless as he beat Chicago in Chicago AT Wrigley Field to send their NL Division Series to a decisive Game 5 at Nationals Park tonight, October 12th, 2017.

And in Game 2,  entering the eighth, Washington trailed 3-1. But all hope was not lost. Enter Adam Lind. In his first career postseason game, Lind hit a single to rekindle hope. No outs. Trea Turner, who has struggled all series, again struck out in a big moment, but star and boy wonder Bryce Harper made the most of his, hitting a massive two-run shot to tie the game. Later in the inning, elder statesman Ryan Zimmerman had his hero moment: a three-run homer to put the Nationals up 6-3. And that would do it, as the Nationals held on to win, 6-3.

Now, all the Nats have to do is win Game 5 at home against the defending champion Chicago Cubs. That’s it. No problem, right?  The only problem is that the Nats have NEVER won a playoff series.  Never ever. And they’ve lost Game 5’s at home. But that could all change tonight.

The same goes for you and me too. Past failures and fumbles can all be washed away with one swing of the bat.  The setbacks we’ve suffered and meltdowns we’ve mustered and the lossess  and  let downs we’ve lived with can and will be forgiven and forgotten in a moment.

Because the turnaround can start today.

Ordinary vs. Extraordinary

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Bryce Harper is an extraordinary player. And he’s an extraordinary player on an ordinary, average, run-of-the-mill team. Go figure.

By all accounts, Harper should win the NL MVP Award this year. Seriously. His team is woefully and dolefully disappointing, but Harper has heaped a whole bunch of home runs and RBI’s and other stats to boot so it’s hard to argue against him winning the award.

At their best, the Washington Nationals are an ordinary team. At the beginning of the season, they were the odds on favorites to win the NL East, and some had them making a run for the World Series. Not. They got out of the gate fast, but stumbled and fumbled the Division to the Mets (https://godandsports.net/2015/04/23/the-mets-are-in-first-place/) who look to be one of the many teams that have a shot at winning it all.

To understand just how valuable Bryce Harper has been to the Washington Nationals this year, consider this: On September 3rd against the Atlanta Braves, Harper — the 22-year-old outfielder who, in his fourth season in the big leagues is the clear front-runner for National League MVP — led the Nats to a 15-1 rout by scoring four runs and driving in another … without even swinging. He came to the plate four times and walked four times. In total, he saw 20 pitches and swung at exactly zero of them. The following day, in his first at-bat, he finally saw a strike — and hit it out of the park. Just as he did the day after. And the day after that.

So how does an extra ordinary player survive on an ordinary team? It happens every day. It happens because the extra’s amongst us have to pull us and power us and lift us and shift us and carry us and command us and coral us and sometimes cajole us because there are times when most of us are ordinary at best and less than ordinary at worst.

during the inning of a baseball game at Nationals Park Friday, April 12, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

So if you find yourself in the situation where you are the extraordinary player on an ordinary team, thank you. Thank you for hitting and homering and catching and fielding and doing everything better than the rest of us. Please keep it up and keep it going and keep it together and hold the fort down till the cavalry comes. You deserve to to play under the bright lights and to receive all of the accolades and awards in the world.

The Nationals Are All Choked Up

Papelbon Choking Harper

To be “choked up” means to become too nervous or tense in a critical situation to perform, as in “He’s fine during practice but in a game he tends to choke up.” This usage, also put as to choke alone, is especially common in sports.

Well, if “all choked up” doesn’t describe the 2015 Washington Nationals Baseball, team, I don’t know what does. The Nats were the pre-season favorites to not only go to the World Series, but to win the whole dag gum thing and bring the Fall Classic and a championship to Washington DC for the first time in a long time. That long time just got one season longer.

Officially out of the playoffs, the Nationals seemingly needed an encore, and yesterday at their last home stand of the season, they got it. Jonathan Papelbon, the mouthy reliever who has worn out his welcome in Boston and Philadelphia, appears to have punched his ticket out of DC – by attacking superstar Bryce Harper.

One day after the Nats were eliminated from the NL East race, Jonathan Papelbon and Harper brawled in the Nationals dugout. It was more than a brawl, it was one player going after another and going at his throat. His throat! Talk about choking.

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/video-jonathan-papelbon-bryce-harper-brawl-nats-dugout-article-1.2376356

After a flyout in the eighth inning of what became a 12-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, Harper headed to the dugout, where he and Papelbon, the team’s closer, exchanged words. The argument escalated, and Papelbon reached out with his left hand and grabbed Harper by the throat. And if that wasn’t enough, Papelbon stayed in the game and allowed five runs in the ninth after the brawl.

Papelbon, who was suspended last week for drilling Manny Machado, has one year and $11 million left on his current deal. He was traded from the Phillies to the Nats on July 28th. On that day, the Nats held a one-game lead over the Mets, but have gone 27-30 since the deal. A coincidence? Maybe. But the Nats bet the farm on this journeyman closer, and all they got was national attention to this dugout brawl that’s become symbolic of their season.

So what did the Nats learn from this incident and from this season? Anything? Ya think? Winning cures everything. And losing exposes everything. Following this maxim, this year’s team is ill and exposed. Attacking your teammate and dueling in the dugout is NEVER a good thing. And it’s a damaging and dangerous way to end a disappointing season.  

Sports and spirituality are conterminous in this respect — unity is absolutely essential.  Harmony, not cacophony, is what’s needed in sports as it’s the main ingredient which is mandatory on every team.

My guess is that next year’s Nats team will look drastically different than this year’s, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Harper, the local golden boy, asks to be traded. Far fetched? Maybe. But we do know that Harper can’t be happy. As for Papelbon, he is already gone, because he’s got to go.

The Mets Are In First Place 2.0: a.k.a., A Setback Is Just A Set Up For A Comeback

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What? The Miracle Mets are in first place … again? Yes indeed. The Mets are in FIRST PLACE . . . Again! The 2015 New York Mets started the season on fire, galloping out of the gate with all of the gusto they could muster. They were the belles of the ball and the queens of the dance. But there was only one problem – it was only April.

The Met’s soon cooled off and chilled out and fell well out of first into 3rd and even fourth place. They fell back and had setbacks and stumbled and fumbled away the lead and it looked like it was all over. All of the experts and know-it-all’s wrote them off and counted them out. But now, they’re back on top, and threatening to take the NL East from the favorites, the Washington Nationals. And these same Mets just swept the Nationals AT Nationals Park! Oh my!

Who would have thunk it? The Mets? Really? Seriously? Do they have another miracle season in ‘em? I for one hope so because I for one love an uncommon comeback, and a terrific turnaround.

Why? Because turnarounds are spiritual. They’re born in Heaven and birthed in eternity. And I believe that the spirit of sports is most evident when a team or a track star or a gymnast or a golfer or a point guard or a place kicker has a great game and a great outing and upsets the favorite and knocks off the front-runner, and wins the day.

So how about you? Come on. Let’s pull for the Mets. They’re just like the rest of us. Like the rest of us, they’ve had setbacks, and let downs and put downs. But now they’ve staged a comeback. So just remember that a setback is just a set up for a comeback.

Come on Mets!

Psalm 30:11-12

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

New Living Translation

Are You Watching Baseball? Of Course You Are – There’s Nothing Else On!

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More people are watching baseball. The numbers are up and interest is high and teams are winning (except mine) and, well, its summertime, right?  And baseball is supposed to be American’s pastime. And besides, there’s no other sports on. But that shouldn’t be the reason people are watching baseball, right?

Prime time television ratings for each of the Major League Baseball teams are up a week before the All-Star break and show an increase over the same period last year, according to data from Nielsen. Using data for each of the 29 domestic U.S. clubs (Nielsen does not track ratings in Canada so the Toronto Blue Jays are excluded), 13 clubs are seeing gains, compared to 12 seeing losses (I wonder who the biggest loser was – Philly?) But surely I digress.   Anyway, the 2014 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants see an average household rating the same as a year ago (4.86).

On top of this, MLB at the local level is dominating summer programming. Each RSN televises an average of 148 MLB game per season, most in prime time (7p-11p), when the television audience is the greatest.

Ten teams are the highest-rated, most-viewed programming in prime time beating the competition in both broadcast and cable. These teams include the Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, and Arizona Diamondbacks.

People watch and pay attention and follow and tune in because something is worthwhile and worth watching.  People don’t watch and don’t pay attention and don’t follow and tune out because there’s nothing to attract them and appeal to them. People are lured in and hooked on because of  bait that is appealing and attractive and likable and laudable. And so the question is, how attractive is your life? If you are a Christian, are you appealing and attention-getting and approachable or even agreeable to those who would want to watch your life?  If not, you should be.

So let’s take a page out of the Major League Baseball playbook. Let’s attract some more viewers. Let’s put out a product that people can and want to see.

And while you’re doing that, go ahead, turn on the tube and watch a good baseball game. Because before you know it, it will be football weather and time to play and pay attention to America’s REAL favorite sport: FOOTBALL!

So It’s One, Two, Three “Likes” You’re Out (At the ‘Ole Ball Game)

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What have we come to? We certainly shouldn’t text and drive, and “hands free” should be a National Law. But now we have a baseball player “liking” during a major league ball game? “Liking” DURING the game? Really?

Apparently Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval fell victim or fell villain Wednesday during his team’s 5-2 loss to Atlanta. While the game was in progress, Sandoval returned to the team’s clubhouse and “liked” a photograph on Instagram. And the question is “Why, for Pete’s sake?”

What’s so urgent about responding to a Friend Request or a text or a post? But we’ve all done it: in a moment of down time, waiting for the train or between tasks at work, you pull out your cell phone and read e-mail, check Facebook, flip through Instagram, so habitually that it’s almost a reflex. It turns out that major league baseball players do it, too—but then they pay the price.

So what have we come to? Are we so addicted to our cell phones and our smart phones and our electronic devices that we can’t function without them? Not even while we are “working?” Apparently not. Social media has taken society by storm, and some can’t weather the winter winds or survive the summer sun without their handheld device in their hot little hand at almost all times.

Whatever happened to the days when we didn’t text a pic or share a vid or “insta” gram and we just talked to each other in person? How about that? I mean, don’t get me wrong; the advantages of the technological revolution far outweigh the disadvantages (I think), but why are we so wed to the “instancy” and immediacy of FACEBOOK and LinkedIn and YouTube and Instagram and the “Like?”

Anybody?

I get it. I do get it. We crave community and unity and bonding and togetherness. And all of that we can find in Christ. All of the stuff of life we crave can be found in the Lord.  All of our hearts desires and longings for family and fellowship can be found in the safety and solace of  the Spirit of the Living God.

But when it comes to the use of our phones at all times all of the time, that’s a mystery. Oh well. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Just don’t do it during the game you are playing in.

Playing With A Chip On Your Shoulder

SI Bryce Harper Guess who’s in first place in the National League East? The Washington Nationals. That’s right, the Washington Nationals. The team with the curly double “u” for a logo. The last time we checked in with these same Nats they were tied for last place and looking bad doing it. (https://godandsports.net/2015/04/27/sports-in-washington-dc-up-and-down-and-all-around/) Right now they’re red hot; they’re clearly the hottest team in baseball, having won eight of their last ten, and they have the hottest player in baseball, Bryce Harper, who’s hitting home runs just for something to do. So what about this Bryce Harper dude? He’s been billed as “Baseball’s LeBron.” He’s been on the cover of  Sports Illustrated TWICE. He’s just 22 years old, he’s getting it done at the plate and in the field, and he’s the toast of the league and the talk of the town. He’s brash and brazen, chucky and cheeky, sassy and brassy, and he’s just what the Dr. ordered in order to get these Nats to where they want to go. And he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder. SI Bryce Harper2 The Washington Nationals have built themselves into a bona fide, legitimate veritable and unquestionable contender. And it’s because they’re playing with a chip on their shoulder — and it’s working. Since moving from Montreal 10 years ago, the Nats have had to prove that they belong. For ten years, the Nats have been trying to prove that they’re not a step-child, black sheep, wannabe, not quite ready for prime time team (https://godandsports.net/2014/10/08/not-quite-ready-for-prime-time/).

Someone who has a chip on their shoulder is angry all the time. They feel that they have been wronged by the world, so they are always ready for a fight or a feud or a scuffle or a tussle. They are easily offended because they feel that they have been treated unfairly by others, or perhaps they feel inferior. The Nats fit this bill to a tee. Bryce+Harper+New+York+Mets+v+Washington+Nationals+elEfXksh7sDl Playing with a chip on your shoulder can also mean that a person has a grievance about something. Something bad has happened and they believe it was someone else’s fault. This kind of person is constantly angry about it so that it affects their behavior. In their mind, a person who is “chippy” is showing how tough they are. Sounds like Bryce Harper and the Nats to me.

The phrase dates back to 1830 when two churlish Long Island boys were determined to fight. A chip was placed on the shoulder of one, and he demanded the other to knock it off at his peril. In this case a chip was a small piece of wood. Ever since, a young boy who is angry about something and determined to fight would place a small chip of wood on his shoulder and challenge another person to knock it off. When the chip was knocked off, it meant the opponent was ready and the fight would begin.

The Nats have something to prove. And so do you. You are fairer than they say you are, you are finer than they sense you are, and you are fiercer than they suppose you are. So go ahead. Prove it. Put the chip on your shoulder. Play “Mad Enough To Win” (https://godandsports.net/?s=Mad+enough+to+win) and make sure you “determine to disappoint the devil” (https://godandsports.net/2013/10/03/determined-to-dissapoint-the-devil/)

The phrase “Playing with a chip on your shoulder” has a negative connotation, but it need not be entirely negative. When your friends forsake you and your enemies underestimate you, there’s nothing wrong with playing with attitude and arrogance, with aggressiveness and assertiveness, and with determination and this declaration: that nothing and no one, and I mean NO ONE can or will beat or best you or strip you or stress you. Why? Because you are more than a conqueror. God always causes you to triumph in Christ. God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness. And your victory lies in your faith. 

So always remember and never forget that you were designed and you have been destined to win.